Advice on starting a new job

So, you’ve finally gotten the job you want. Now what?

A new job is a bit of a challenge. Here’s some advice to get you started…

The first day:

  • Don’t expect anyone to pay you too much attention. Unless you’ve joined an incredibly small organization, most people will be too busy to care that you’ve joined, much less welcome you. In fact, you might find many people who are too busy to even say hi to you, until a few days later.
  • No one will really expect you to do any work on the first day. Most likely, you will be running around for an ID card, internet and intranet access, a PABX, a PC, and filling out hundreds of forms.
  • Get your bearings. Find out where the washroom is, where the doors, various rooms, and emergency exits are.

Despite the apparant uselessness of the first day (and yes, it will seem useless compared to grand expectations of meeting the CEO and starting work on a top-level project), there are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Try to arrive a bit early, or at least be on time. Don’t be too early, since that would raise a few eyebrows, but make sure you’ve factored in your commute and any likely problems.
  • Lay out your clothes the night before, right down to shoes and accessories. Pack your bag, make sure nothing is missing. Choose an outfit that you look great in.
  • Start being nice to everyone, everywhere. You never know if your future boss will see you being rude to a salesperson or bad driver. Be friendly and polite to everyone in the office. Introduce yourself if you need to; most people will not ask you who are.
  • A day or two into your new job, you may be taken out to lunch or coffee by the CEO or someone from top management. Don’t think that this common practice. Take this rare opportunity to bond (at least try to). Be respectful and interested in him/her, don’t grovel, and try to act intelligent and funny. Impossible advice to follow when you’re nervous, but try your best anyway 🙂
  • If your company offers an orientation or introductory training program, try to pay attention and to not sleep through the entirety. (True confession: during my orientation programme, I spent my entire time reading a novel, playing games on my cell phone, and stealing all the chocolates displayed in the pretty bowl in front of me. All was not wasted. My friends got a lot of chocolates that day ;))

A few days into your new job:

  • Try to get a hang of the rules. Not just the ones written in the manual (though you should definitely know those ones too.) Observe what people wear, especially on casual Fridays, and to important meetings (in the hope that one day you, too, will attend such important meetings). How do people work? Is it common practice to take work home? During your first week, come to office a bit early, and leave late: how many people do the same thing? Is it acceptable practice to take long tea or lunch breaks? Where do most people have their lunch? How do people treat each other? Is there a lot of joking around, or is everyone very serious?
  • Get to know the people you’ll work with. Go to lunch with them, or to drinks after work (and don’t get drunk). Be careful in your interactions: be friendly and interested, but don’t offer any gossip or negative opinions. You won’t know immediately what the political undercurrents are.
  • Try to find out what the political undercurrents are. Who hates who? Which department is trying to outdo which other department? You get the idea…
  • Become friendly with strategically important people. This includes secretaries, especially, who have access to otherwise secret information.
  • Find out who the high-flyers in your company are. They are not necessarily people already in the top. There may be someone rising very fast. Try to pick these people’s brains. Hang out with them as often as you can.
  • Just so that people don’t think you’re cold-hearted, manipulative and ambitious, be friendly with everyone. An excellent way is to bring food to share. I found this out quite by accident: I’m always eating, and I don’t enjoy eating alone, so I used to bring snacks that could be shared by many. This won’t work with all food. But just try bringing freshly baked brownies or cookies one day 😉
  • Get to know your bosses. You should have been introduced to your immediate supervisor by know. Find out who you will be reporting to.
  • If you don’t have much work during the first few days, use your spare time to go through old company documents that you have access to. Marketing plans, business plans, competitor analysis, and such things may be very helpful information. Decide what things you’d like to find out, and search for them on your PC and intranet.
  • Find out your work priorities from your supervisor. Get some work to do. Do it. Get feedback. Initially, you should try to get feedback ASAP, so that you can make changes as needed.
  • If you’re not being given much work, ask for something to do. If you still don’t have much to do, ask your new colleagues if you can help them in any way. But don’t get sucked into the “I’d really appreciate it if you’d get me some coffee” trap. Unless it’s your boss that’s asking you to do that. (Which he shouldn’t, but still. Play along.)
  • Never refuse offers of  help.
  • During the first few days, try to never turn down an invite to an office party, or just an invite to “hang out with the guys”.
  • Never negatively compare your new job with your old job. If you do, people might think that you want your old job back, and that you don’t like your new one.

And finally:

  • Never interrupt someone who’s giving you advice. Nod along, and decide by yourself if you’ll take it or not 😉

41 Responses to Advice on starting a new job

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